3 months of Twitter

I have many microformat related posts (rants?) to come, but they’re best saved until after this weekend since BarCamp will make a better foundation for said discussions. Looking forward to what is turning out to be a little bit of a mini microformat camp though!

So on another topic – Twitter. I know, plenty of people have spoken about it, but I just haven’t been inclined to yet. I am now since the novelty is starting to wear off (I’ve been using it since November, I think) and this seems like as good a time as any to give my thoughts on it.

Twitter basically is sort of like web-based status messages (like you’d have on MSN messenger). Twitter asks “What are you doing?” and the correct response would be a 3rd person answer such as “looking at twitter.”. Anyway, what’s actually happened is Twitter is a status updater and a really slow IM client in one. I think it’s because Twit’s can be grouped into two main types:

  • Status updater – this kind of Twit uses Twitter as intended and updates in the 3rd person about what they’re doing at that given time, or what interesting location they may be in. This kind of Twit generally dislikes the types below for muddying the stream. Often these Twitter’s could exist alone and don’t tend to be a response to anyone else, or require feedback. It’s a rather solipsist world. (I kind’a dig it.)
  • Chatter – these treat Twitter like an IM client, generally holding conversations on the site. Lots of “@Bob – See you there!” type messages. To know who, what and where these Twits are you have to friend and follow all of their friends. These Twit’s think the type above are boring.

Of course, there’s a bit of overlap. I try to be a Status Updater, but occasionally I fall into Chatter mode. I don’t dislike either type, really, although my friends list has had to be culled a few times to remove those that I feel twitter too often, and those Status Updaters that only update about eating their lunch soon got lost as well.

I actually quite like Twitter on the whole.

What I actually like about it is the ability to keep in touch with people I don’t see very often, but wouldn’t necessarily chat to or email. A good example is the Brighton geek crowd – I see them from time to time, but now when I do see them I already know what they’ve been up to without having to go through the “How are you, what’re you up to lately?” mundane conversation because they all twitter update. I know exactly where they’ve been and what projects have been driving them potty, and can cut straight to the chase. That really works for me.

Another thing that interests me about Twitter, on a personal level, is how much I like using it when I’m away from the computer. There’s something odd about me (and others) that makes me want to check in on my mobile and actually prove to people that I do go outside occasionally and maybe even go to interesting places. Why do I need to do that? I don’t often turn the updates on, so I don’t see any responses if there are any. I think I must like solidifying the things I do in digital form. If it’s on the web it must be true!

As an aside, there is actually a 3rd kind of Twit. The News Twit. Generally, these are automated (the BBC news headlines are available) but there are one or two human-controlled streams popping up, like the microformats one we’ve set up and have been using to announce events. I’m not sure how much I like this. It doesn’t really fit – why not just subscribe to the RSS of the actual feed if there is one? Jury’s out.

Ultimately though, I’ve always thought that Twitter can’t last as it is. It needs better filtering and friends control – the noise is starting to get too loud. Perhaps interest groupings? Channels? It works for IRC (which is still my preference for digital communications). It needs smarter phone commands that might let Twitter become a worldwide answer to Dodgeball so that it can be used more easily for getting together with friends and finding out what’s going on and where. It’ll be interesting to see how useful Twitter will be in Texas next month, if at all.

I’m still checking in on it, but I’m not sure for how much longer.

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